Ottawa bike politics.
There isn’t a centimetre of bike lane in the city that didn’t require volunteer time…
That meant getting a babysitter to go to a consultation, filling out an awful survey on your lunch break or having a frustrating argument with your councillor. Some people take time off work to go to Public Advisory Committees. I know people who do this for their retirement.
Road building for cars is a well-oiled machine; engineers get paid, suburban builders get bonuses and politicians are re-elected. No lobbying is required. This is not a group that benefits from change.
But bike infrastructure is different. This part of our Transportation Master Plan depends on unpaid citizens with no formal training.
Enforcement isn’t working. They’re not patrolling major routes with regularity. If you call it in, the driver will leave and nothing can be done. The main offenders are delivery truck drivers, and those tickets are just an assumed operating expense for the company. Who cares?
The entire rest of the road is optimized for motor vehicles. Can’t we please have this one small strip of land we fought for?
We need to make parking in a bike lane socially unacceptable. So I appeal, again, to go to open houses, have polite discussions with offenders, call bylaw and post photos on social media.
And if you don’t have time, pay a few bucks to your local advocacy group so they can do it on your behalf.
Do you think the City should stick to its plan to build bike lanes on O’Connor? Then you need to write the City right now. I believe we can change their course of cancelling the Glebe parts of the O’Connor bike lanes.
The plan for bike lanes for all of O’Connor goes back to 2008. This has been reinforced several times over the years, including in the April 9th, 2015 O’Connor Bikeway Plan. Just 11 days later: cancelled for all parts of O’Connor in the Glebe.
Here’s the about-face the City gave on April 20th, in email, out of the blue:
Based on comments from stakeholders and the public as part of the current public consultation program for the O’Connor Street Bikeway study, and in consultation with the Ward Councillor, the recommendations for the Glebe portion of the proposed O’Connor Street Bikeway are being revised. South of Strathcona Avenue, the recommended treatment will be for shared use lanes, which means that all existing on-street parking and curbside access between Strathcona Avenue and Fifth Avenue will be unchanged; dedicated bike lanes will no longer be recommended in this section and the existing on-street parking will no longer be relocated to other local streets. The primary reason for this change is in acknowledgement of the low-speed, low-traffic-volume residential nature of this two-way street coupled with the unique need for at least some on-street parking and curbside access.
Parking is usually the biggest blocker of any bike project, and I don’t see how parking can be considered a “unique need”. Moreover, there’s no reduction in parking, it was to be moved: “the on-street parking spaces within the Glebe East Permit Parking Zone would not be reduced”.
Maybe the City has just forgotten the years of support that Citizens for Safe Cycling and many other cyclists have had for this project. They need reminding.
I ask you to email Robert Grimwood, project manager for the Glebe portion of O’Connor bike facilities. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve known Robert for awhile, he likely isn’t the decision maker, but does collect feedback.
Use your own words, but here are some points I’ll be making:
Please take a moment and do this by Thursday, April 30th. There’s a good chance this will influence their report to the Transportation Committee on June 3rd.
In bike advocacy, you can only ask cyclists so often to write in favour of a cause. I’m using one of my silver bullets here. Please go make some noise.
I’m big on references:
I’m going on another tour, and I was looking for something hillier than the last trips (Texas and Quebec). I have 14 bicycle days to get from Nice, France to Groningen, Netherlands. That distance is technically 1500km, but I’m unlikely to be able to keep up the 150km/day pace I had in Texas.
First I’m starting with an established route called Le Tour des Grandes Alpes. which runs from near Nice (Menton) to near Geneva (Thoulon). Normally it’s run southbound, but I’ll be doing it in reverse. It is 600km with a total climb of 20,000m. includes Bonette (2800m), D’Iseran and various others. These are higher than anything I’ve done before.
The second part is getting from Geneva to Eindhoven. I’m expecting I’ll have to take the train for parts of this. I have no real plans on how to do this. I’ll meet up with my parents there; they’re there to reminisce about where they grew up. After that, to Groningen in the north where my sister is celebrating her 50th birthday.
A lot of this is just easier to arrange now. I know what equipment to bring, what to expect, etc. I’m always worried my bike won’t make it or that I’ll suffer some horrible mechanical problem that can’t be fixed.
I’m really bad at blogging during trips. Maybe this time will be different.
Friends and co-workers mean well when they tell me that winter biking is dangerous. Random drivers telling me to get off the road are less polite. Here are some responses to their most common concerns.
I need to get around. The bus takes too long and I’m cheap. And I can’t drive (and if you want to know why, ask).
Winter biking’s safer than other modes of transportation.
Driving’s dangerous. From 2008-2012 in Ottawa drivers killed 11 cyclists, 37 pedestrians and 98 people in cars. Want to make the roads safer? Decrease driving.
Recreational activities? 25% of nonfatal recreational outdoor injuries in emergency rooms. An average of 29 people die every year by snowmobile in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.
Biking in the winter is like skiing or skating and warmer than waiting for the bus. Dress properly.
If you think this it is because you have no experience.
A good cyclist with studded tires is more stable than a 2000lb car without winter tires. I’ve fallen less on bike than I’ve stopped to help stuck motorists.
There’s a lot of controversy about the Laurier segregated bike lane pilot around parking on the western part of the project. There’s a some loud voices who are concerned about the changes in access to parking and pick-up/drop-off areas. I’m not going to argue with that in this article. I’m just laying out the facts. Go draw your own conclusions, maybe I’ll do that in another article.
Here’s some highlights of what I’ve found:
The following are two summary maps that explain the parking situation before and after. This might make it easier to visualize what’s changed.
I’ll explain below a bit about how I collected this data.
This parking would be used primarily for guests of the residents. It has different constraints; some are limited by 2 hours, some are intended for overnight parking. There’s also seasonal access.
Here’s how spots were relocated. There’s a total of 6 fewer spots now; the total loss is 8.1%.
|Laurier, Bronson to Percy, both sides||13||0||Removed to make room for lanes.|
|Laurier, Percy to Bay, both sides||33||0||Removed to make room for lanes.|
|Gloucester, Bronson to Percy||10*||17*||It seems these spots could have been added regardless of this project.|
|Gloucester, Percy to Bay||7*||20*||Added by removing the bicycle lane on the north side. Also, the school drop-off zone makes it difficult to count spots.|
|Nepean, Bronson to Percy||6*||13*||It seems these could have been added anyway.|
|Nepean, West of Percy||0||0||This is just a short dead-end street.|
|Bay between Laurier and Gloucester||0||3||These additions were not part of the original plan.|
|Percy, Laurier to Nepean||5||5||These are on the east side.|
|Ottawa Tech HS lot||0||10||These spots are closer to Slater than Laurier, and they are covered.|
* Both Nepean and Gloucester are hard to count as the spots aren’t always marked nor were there absolute numbers recorded before. So the estimates are based on how many cars we saw parked plus estimated available spots.
**Nepean deserves a special mention. We went onsite on Friday, June 22 and counted 17 cars parked between Bronson and Percy. There’s a few reasons for this: it could be that some were parked illegally (particularly east of Percy), the space actually installed was larger than actually planned, and that more cars were able to be squeezed into the space available. However, to be conservative, I’ve stuck with the 13 spots planned. See how this isn’t so simple?
But numbers aren’t everything, location matters also. For instance, the Ottawa Tech Highscool spots are particularly far. I haven’t done the numerical analysis of the distribution of walking distances. I suppose you could create two charts showing before and after scenarios, but I haven’t. But eyeballing it, I draw the following conclusions.
For addresses on Laurier, parking at the back entrances is now closer. For 175 Bronson, 570 Laurier and 556 Laurier getting to the back doors on Gloucester might mean walking outdoors. Removing the old bike lane on Gloucester and replacing it with parking spots means 13 more spots right by the back entrance to 500/530 Laurier.
For addresses on Gloucester, there’s seven new spots at the front entrance.
Each of the buildings has some form of private on-site parking that’s purchased with the units. So if you own a condo, you’re likely to own a spot. They’re not configured to be pooled. So if you own a spot and don’t use it, it ends up being wasted space.
It is also important to consider what private parking is available. This would generally be used by property owners or renters. It is worth noting that the average number of vehicles per household is more than 1.0; it could be that some residents normally use on-street parking for their vehicles.
|Building||Units||Private parking spots|
It would be interesting to know how many spots per resident there really are, but that’s hard to figure out. The average number of dwellers per unit in Ottawa is 2.4 in Centretown, but I don’t know if that’s for these residences.
In all of this I’m only considering legal parking spots. Anecdotally, people are parking all the time on the northern parts of Percy and Bay, in the street and on the bike lane. And I’m pretty sure you’d find people making deliveries using the stopping-only spots, etc.
You can use these to counter some things that have been brought up. A summary of what’s been said is up at Citizen Cycle here. Clearly not all of it is true.
I genuinely want to make sure that I have the facts straight and I want to hear if I’m not stating them properly. But be sure to bring some sort of evidence and site sources.
(Photos by Alex deVries and Lana Stewart used with permission. Others contributed to this content.)
This section was added on August 31, 2012. I went through comments both emailed to me from Janine Hutt (chair of BBRAGFAR) and in this pages comments section. This is a list of changes I made based on that feedback, plus some comments on what I’m not going to change and why. The document they sent me was about 9 pages; I’m not going to publish it here as it was sent to me directly. But I would if they said it was okay.
BBRAGFAR had different numbers than me. Their counts differ from mine in the following ways:
I chose not to update my numbers above as there wasn’t any actual sourced reason for their numbers. I really need to see some sort of actual reference (some photos, a diagram showing position of spots, maybe a pointer to someone else’s map). I stand by my numbers until someone can provide a trustworthy reference to show how they’re wrong.
So if I calculate it properly, they count a loss from 74 to 46 spots, where as mine are a drop from 74 to 68.
I heard back from BBRAGFAR that they thought my drop of 8% parking availability was in fact 61%. Of course, they’re using their above numbers of 46 current spots.
I’ll use my numbers to explain their method. They’re comparing number of new spots to number of spots lost, essentially only counting the moved spots. With my numbers, 46 spots were removed and 40 were added. Using their method, the loss is then (46-40)/46, so 15%.
They’re not counting the original number of spots, 28. I don’t think their interpretation of the numbers makes any sense. If I’m driving around looking for a spot, I don’t care (or know) if I’m using a spot that’s always been there or one that’s new. Parking contention is only going to come up when all 68 spots are full.
It took me awhile to explain the different interpretations of the numbers, I thought this chart might help:
If we use the BBRAGFAR numbers (a loss of 46 spots, a gain of 28), then they come up with a 61% loss. But as I said, I don’t think their numbers are right.
I maintain there’s three spots for the four addresses on Laurier that can be used for legal pick-ups, drop-offs or deliveries. I have photos of each of them on the blog.
The BBRAGFAR response is: “Legal pick-up and drop offs on Laurier are now non-existant between Bronson and Lyon since the SBL except in front of 556 and 570”. The two addresses they say are missing are 500/530 Laurier, which has always had a parkade.
I cannot understand their statement. There’s always been a parkade there that’s been used as for pick-ups and drop-offs. That’s what it was built for. There’s a photo above that shows it. Perhaps they see the lack of access because of the parkade’s construction this summer, but that’s not a result of the bike lane. I think there’s an expectation that the public street could be used for the 4-5 month construction of the condominium property.
Is the city responsible for providing room for pick-up/drop-off space during a private construction project? I don’t think so, but clearly others disagree.
One thing that came out is that there’s no definition of an acceptable distance to walk to a parking spot. That might seem obvious, but seems to be part of the problem in describing what should be counted or not.
Based on feedback, I made the following smaller changes:
I think I’m done with this topic. Unless something drastic happens, I’m unlikely to update this blog entry. I encourage readers to think for themselves based on information they find, hopefully that’s here and my references are sufficient to make it reliable. If you use this information, I’d appreciate a reference.
Oh, and blogs are free. If you don’t like what’s here, go publish your own. Or just comment below.
Here’s my current equipment dilemma: I’m switching from my comfortable summer bike to my somewhat cheaper winter bike (sort of like this, but with a different Marin frame as the first one cracked. Oh, so did the second, so this one has a welded aluminum frame). Like most people out, I’m biking around on a $100 frame with $150 of studded tires. I count on everything rusting out.
Here’s a typical conversation:
Me: “For my winter bike, I don’t want to have to bike on studs all season, as they slow me down 25% on my 23km commute. I want replacement wheel I can just swap out depending on the weather.
Other bike geek: “Yeah? I have a spare 7-speed wheel you can have.”
Me: “Yeah, but the OD doesn’t match, and the indexing is off by 0.2mm then”
Other bike geek: “Why not just buy a wheel with an 8-speed hub?”
Me: “I can’t find anything online under $120, and it’ll just get salted out anyway.”
Other bike geek: “Plus, the index alignment won’t match so you’ll need new friction shifters, and there’s the brake pads might need realignment so you’ll have no rear brakes. You could get an identical rear wheel…”
I know maybe one person who would have a similiar conversation about a car. This is not the kind of thing that popularizes cycling. Here’s an ad of the bike I would sell if I could:
Finally, a bike that’ll work year-round, easier to service than a car, and cheaper than driving or transit. No more worries about biking; just grab your helmet and enjoy the segregated lanes that cover our city.
And for everyone wondering about how we’ll bike on snowy paths; more on the White Route in another entry.